Thursday, Aug. 23
Lowell @ Rockford
Lowell won this one last year, 28-7, and capped 2011 with a third-straight state finals appearance. The Red Arrows graduated stalwart all-state quarterback Gabe Dean, but how could you doubt a replacement as amazingly named as Titan Anderson? The Red Arrows do return their top player on the defensive side, speedy senior rush end Pierce Watson.
The Rams thought they’d do the same — but safety KC Zenner won’t be back just yet as he recovers from a knee injury. A school Rockford’s size isn’t exactly lacking in depth, and Zenner’s absence just means the junior linebacking duo of Randy Gervin and Brent Showers will step it up. On the offensive side, while he doesn’t have Michigan lineman Ben Braden to run behind anymore, Rams senior Connor Darby is one of the top backs in West Michigan.
Friday, Aug. 24
McBain @ Boyne City
This one was a rout last year, as the (McBain) Ramblers blanked the (Boyne City) Ramblers. But there is renewed hope on the southern shore of Lake Charlevoix with the return of long-time and highly successful coach Dave Hills after a three-season sabbatical. During his first tenure, Hills’ teams went 69-26 and made eight straight playoff appearances and were the rare Lake Michigan Conference team that would stand up to powerhouse Traverse City St. Francis, playing hard-hitting, “Boyne Tough” football.
McBain was 9-2 last season, and won the Highland Conference. Senior Jared Larr returns at quarterback and junior Zach Stephan is a strong runner. But will an inexperienced line have jelled for Week 1 to play McBain’s patented power football?
There was one potential All-American in this group, Cadillac lineman Riley Norman, but he removed himself from discussion as a college football prospect when he committed to Michigan State as a track and field athlete. That leaves a 2013 class whose best prospect, Corey Willis, isn’t playing this fall, but still heads up a strong contingent of MAC prospects.
1. Corey Willis 5-10 170 ATH Holland Central Michigan
Even without playing his senior season after tearing an ACL in track (he was an all-state long jumper as a 10th-grader), the case can be made that, with all due respect to Jeff Fox, Willis will go down as the best player in Holland High history. As a junior Willis ran for 2,334 yards and 33 TDs; threw for 908 yards and 10 TDs; made 42 tackles; and picked off five passes, returning one for a touchdown. The Dutch won two playoff games in 2011, after never having won any previously. He was receiving interest from bigger schools before the injury, but chose CMU because they stuck with him. The prep QB projects as a slot receiver or cornerback at the next level.
2. Jack Ford 6-6 270 OL Cadillac Central Michigan
Ford starts at left tackle for Cadillac. At right tackle is 6-7, 315 Riley Norman, who would’ve been an All-American candidate except he’s quitting football after this high school season to pursue track and field at MSU. The Vikings have a package where both line up on the right side, pity that defensive line. While Norman has the measurables, Ford has good feet and that mean streak you love in the pits. He’ll play through the whistle and make his presence known.
3. Brandon Moore 6-3 195 WR Montague
After catching 50 balls for 10 TDs as a junior, Moore has moved to QB for his senior season. It makes sense, as perennial small school power Montague needs to get the ball in the hands of their best athlete, who also happens to be the only returning offensive starter. He also starts at safety, and averaged 40.5 yards punting. While not a natural passer, he can lob it in there accurately if not quickly and Moore’s ability to break tackles with his lower-body strength and turn the corners make him a legitimate dual threat. A lack of elite speed (4.6 40) has big-time programs shying away from Moore. They’ll regret it. He’s simply a playmaker who can go and get the ball, a smooth long-strider who can stretch the field without being a burner, and few are better in the air.
4. Nate Jeppesen 6-4 260 OL Portage Central Toledo
For the second year in a row Portage Central has produced a big-time line prospect. Last season’s star, Kyle Knapp, is at Syracuse. Like Knapp, Jeppesen makes up for overwhelming size with footspeed. He worked out (well) at MSU as a defensive tackle, but the MAC offers came on the other side as a guard or possibly center. He chose Toledo over the likes of Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, CMU, EMU and WMU.
5. Tyler White 6-5 225 ATH Plainwell
Last season Plainwell sent lineman Jack Conklin to Michigan State late. If he’s healthy, Plainwell could have another big-time sleeper on its hands. White is a monster athlete who plays running back but likely projects as a tight end or on the defensive end. Coaches are curious to see White’s senior film to see how he’s recovered from a knee injury. Judging from how he moved in spring AAU basketball and at MSU’s camp, they’ll be happy with the results. The Westside’s answer to Novi Catholic Central’s Wyatt Shalman.
6. Daniel Green 6-0 290 DL Grand Rapids West Catholic
He anchored the lines for a team that made the Division 5 semifinals in 2011, and could be even better this season. Green made 74 tackles as a junior, including 16 behind the line of scrimmage. GLIAC coaches are praying that D1s don’t get hip to just how good Green is. Both highly productive, and with a body built for the nose guard. Not just strong, but active and aggressive, the kind of kid you have to double team and will still make the evening miserable for you.
7. Jack Jennings 6-3 215 LB Paw Paw
From the school that gave us Jason Babin, Jennings’ first varsity season was a memorable one. The middle linebacker made 161 tackles — including eight sacks — forced five fumbles and made two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Those aren’t inflated numbers, JJ is an instinctive first-hit machine.
8. KC Zenner 6-0 190 DB Rockford
College coaches are taking a wait-and-see approach after Zenner had his left knee surgically reconstructed after injuring it playing basketball last December. He’ll miss the season opener against Lowell. If he proves good as new, KC could shoot up this list. When healthy, this Chuck Cecil type is everything you want at safety with his motor and closing speed. Fills the gaps and stops the run without over-committing. As a junior he led the Rams with 138 tackles, including 13 behind the line. In two varsity seasons he’s intercepted eight passes and broken up 16 more. He also returned a punt for a score.
9. Houston Glass 6-1 185 DB East Kentwood
EK may have lost their coach, but their best player, now a third-year starter, is still around. Glass also plays running back, while projecting as a free safety at the mid-major DI level. Glass has both track speed, running a sub-11 second 100 meters as part of EK’s sprinter factory, and a 4.55 in the 40. Can cover and get back in the action with just one step. As a junior he made 70 tackles, picked off five passes, and broke up five more, while running for 546 yards and three TDs.
10. Zach Crouch 6-5 235 TE Grand Rapids Christian Central Michigan
CMU was the first D1 school to offer Crouch, and he will reunite with his Eagles teammate Kavon Frazier in Mt. Pleasant. Plays defensive end as well, and has the physical tools to play either at the next level. Defensively has the speed to make plays in the backfield, or recover and up the field. Receiving numbers would be bigger if he weren’t lined up with an All-American wideout in junior Drake Harris.
11. Jake Bull 6-7 225 TE Hudsonville
While the player just above him, Zach Crouch, fits the speed and finesse mold of the modern pass-catching tight end, Bull is more of an old school grinder. His name fits his game. Battle-tested in the O-K Red. Physical specimen who is getting bigger but still runs sub-5.0 40s. More straight-line speed than explosiveness and swivel, and more of a blocker and outlet guy than a downfield threat. Plays too upright at times. Bull is being recruited by small colleges for basketball, and the Ivy League for football.
12. Brandan Campbell 5-11 220 LB Otsego
A punishing runner on one side, a punishing tackler from the other. He is an animal in the gym. Campbell can bench press 225 pounds — more than his body weight — 25 times and maxes out at 425. Because of that strength, he played out of position at defensive tackle for Otsego, and had 42 tackles, including five sacks and six more behind the line in 2011. Campbell will be even more dangerous this year — both ways — now that he’s knocked his 40 time down into the 4.5s.
13. Colin Schlosser 6-0 215 LB Forest Hills Central
A classic middle linebacker in that Schlosser is a film fanatic off the field, the defensive leader on it. Schlosser had 103 tackles, including six sacks, as a junior. This season he’s coming in 10 pounds heavier. A GLIAC lock who could break through to the MAC.
14. Blake Mazur 6-2 240 LB Comstock Park
This will be his third year starting both ways. At the next level Blake projects as a rush end. He separates with quick and strong hands, and can separate and will keep coming after initial contact. Adept at slipping blockers, then wrapping up backs behind scrimmage. Has MAC interest, but no offers yet. When it comes to scholarship crunch time, Mazur’s 4.0 gpa could be the deal maker.
15. Ryheem Stokes 5-10 170 DB Grand Rapids Catholic Central
Terrific instincts, and kept getting better and better to become a legit football player as a junior. Stokes made 50 tackles and five interceptions,and ran for 439 yards and four TDs. And he wasn’t doing it against scrubs. CC’s only 2011 losses were to East Kentwood and Zeeland West.
16. Reed Stormzand 6-0 205 ATH Lowell
A tight end/linebacker who has the athleticism to be plugged into any number of spots. Runs really well for his size. Tested big-time at the Childress Sports combine in Traverse City, where he was first in the bench press with 15 reps of 225 and top 5 in the 40, broad and vertical jumps.
17. Nic Lamica 6-4 215 LB Forest Hills Central
The outside complement to teammate Colin Schlosser on the inside. Has the loose hips to turn and cover, which he needs because doesn’t yet have the strength to play the line. Lamica is patient and smart reading the backfield. Smooth in pursuit up and down the line. Plays hyped up, good motor, which also makes him a mean blocking threat on FHC’s return teams.
18. Bryan Holmes 5-10 185 K West Ottawa
It’s been a bad year for knees in West Michigan, as Holmes joins Corey Willis and KC Zenner on the comeback trail. He was considered one of the top kicking prospects in the Midwest before tearing the ACL in his right (kicking) knee while making a tackle last September. Prior to that he had two field goals of 40+ and multiple touchbacks.
19. Patrick Banks 5-10 320 DL Zeeland East
Not the prototypical body — even 5-10 may be a tad generous — and he’s as slow as he is strong. Which is saying something because Banks squats 600 pounds. He’s become a GLIAC recruiting priority as a run-clogging specialist from the tackle spot.
20. Bobby Drew 6-4 285 DL Holland
Saginaw Valley State leads for this defensive tackle who as a junior helped Holland to the most successful campaign in school history. Should only benefit from playing for Holland’s first-year head coach Lamanzer Williams, a former NFL lineman.
21. TJ Schepperly 5-8 175 ATH Traverse City Central
Plays quarterback and cornerback for TC Central, but tested really well as a running back (his 10th-grade position) at the Childress Sports combine in Traverse City. Working out on his soggy home turf at Thirlby Field, Schepperly tested out first in the vertical at 35 inches, second in the pro agility shuttle in 4.1 seconds and fourth in the 40 and long jump.
22. Jake Brown 6-1 190 ATH Comstock Park
This will be Brown’s third season starting at quarterback, and he’s one of the most productive signal callers in the state. As a junior he threw for 1,858 yards and 14 TDs and ran for 1,208 yards and 27 TDs.
23. Cal Beck 6-4 295 OL Paw Paw
A two-way standout for Paw Paw, on last season’s 10-2 team helping open holes for Marquise Gill’s Luke Vavra’s big running years, and clogging things up as classmate Jack Jennings piled up the tackles at linebacker. With how he moves and hits at that size, Beck could be one of the more overlooked prospects in Michigan.
24. Trevor VanTubbergen 6-3 180 QB West Ottawa
There aren’t a lot of consequential pro-style senior quarterbacks in West or Northern Michigan this year, which makes VanTubbergen intriguing. Last season we got to see just how good Trevor’s older brother, WMU then-sophomore QB Tyler VanTubbergen, is when given a chance. He threw for six TDs and ran for another in a Broncos’ win over Akron. Trevor can make plays from under center of the shotgun. Can make most of the throws but doesn’t have a rocket arm. Keeps plays alive with his feet, but would like to see a bit more fortitude in the pocket. He threw for nearly 1,000 yards with 12 TDs in 2011.
25. Chandar Ricks 6-4 290 OL Muskegon
He’s the biggest member of a tough Muskegon line that can just pound out some old fashioned power football. Ricks helpled clear space for fullback Juwon Lewis’ 2011 all-state campaign. Now he, 6-3, 285 Quincy Crosby and 6-4, 260 Antwan Billings will be opening the door for a smaller back, Marcus Smith.
Northern Michigan Honorable Mention
Jake Daugherty 6-3 275 DL Big Rapids
Tony DeAugostino 5-9 155 DB Petoskey
Wyatt Derrer 5-10 180 RB Mancelona
Derrick Diver 6-3 220 LB Traverse City West
Tristan Eickenroth 6-1 200 RB Kingsley
Tyler Gildersleeve 6-7 270 OL Traverse City Central
Trent Karcher 6-1 185 WR Chippewa Hills
Mike O’Brien 6-3 215 DL Maple City Glen Lake
Jordan Rolston 6-0 180 LB Reed City
Andon Ware 5-11 170 ATH Baldwin
With two players already committed to Michigan State, the class of 2014 promises to be a banner recruiting year in West and Northern Michigan. While this list will remain fluid in the months to come, heading into their junior seasons here are the 25 players trending as the top college prospects in The Lake’s coverage area.
- Drake Harris 6-4 180 WR Grand Rapids Christian Michigan State
- Jordan Van Dort 6-7 285 ATH Zeeland West
- Byron Bullough 6-2 195 LB Traverse City St. Francis Michigan State
- Tommy Doles 6-5 240 OL Grand Rapids Christian
- Jake Khoury 6-3 265 DL Traverse City St. Francis
- Connor Hayes 6-4 270 OL Traverse City West
- Jalen Brooks 6-3 185 ATH Cadillac
- Chris Hendricks 6-4 265 OL Fruitport
- Kenneth Finley 6-4 265 DL Muskegon
- Austin Labus 6-6 270 OL Portage Northern
- Spencer Viening 6-0 205 RB Zeeland East
- Mitch Stanitzek 6-3 215 DL Grand Rapids West Catholic
- DeSean Thrower 5-11 175 ATH Muskegon
- Jake Kasenski 6-5 240 TE Ludington
- Brent Showers 6-0 210 LB Rockford
- Zach Stephan 5-10 185 RB McBain
- Randy Garvin 6-0 205 LB Rockford
- Will Hunt 5-11 205 LB Muskegon
- Nick Swore 6-2 185 QB Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
- Zach Evans 6-3 230 LB Kenowa Hills
- Jacob Howe 6-2 235 LB Forest Hills Northern
- Elliott Jordan 6-7 235 TE East Kentwood
- Jack Brodeur 6-2 215 DL Traverse City St. Francis
- Tristen Fleet 6-1 270 OL Mancelona
- Drew Marion 6-2 185 QB Lake City
Which Northern & Western Michigan teams are you most excited to see play this season?
Photo Credit: darrensphotoblog.blogspot.com
Check out the video recap from 9&10 News on the first-ever Northern Michigan Football Combine & Exposure Camp. The event was held at Thirlby Field in Traverse City, MI, on July 27, 2012. Over 125 players and a dozen college coaches were in attendance for this inaugural year. The event was hosted by Childress Sports Consulting, co-founder of the Lake Michigan Football Report.
“It’s a great relief just to get it off my back,” Harris said. “The last couple of years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about where I wanted to go to college. So it feels good to get that decision off my back and be able to come out here and help my team win.”
Sensing the void of coverage missing the greatly talented players in Northern & West Michigan, the Lake Michigan Football Report aims to provide the most in-depth coverage for high school football recruiting outside of Metro Detroit! “THE LAKE” (as we affectionately call it) will feature player rankings, in-depth recruiting analyses and weekly game breakdowns. We will also feature exposure events and educational workshops for high school football players throughout the area.
As always, our goal is to provide the best exposure and educational opportunities for student-athletes in Northern and West Michigan. The Lake Michigan Football Report provides you with one of the premier platforms for exposure and education in the state of Michigan.